Leftovers

We had family visiting recently and they brought A TON of food with them. So we have been eating leftovers all week.

I. Am. Not. Complaining.

Sooo, I have no new recipes this week. And next week we are visiting family in New Jersey (no, we are not bringing food). I will likely not post anything next week either because I will be stuffing my face with boardwalk fries and sitting on my parents’ couch.

Sorry, not sorry.

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Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

I told you I’m all about pasta salads lately!  I wasn’t kidding.

Since I do monthly meal planning (post coming soon!), I have to use up the most perishable items first.  Sometimes I do a really good job of planning out my meals so we aren’t eating the same type of food all in the first week or two of my shopping trip.  Other months, like this one, I buy pretty perishable stuff for 3 different pasta salads.  Spinach, fresh basil, tomatoes, etc.  Good thing I love pasta salads – I don’t mind eating two in the same week.  Do you?

I got this recipe from my mother in law and I make it all the time.  It makes a pretty huge batch (which no one minds because we all love it) and is easy to serve at a BBQ or bring to a party as a yummy side dish.  Or add chicken and it becomes a main meal.  It’s also pretty affordable, which for a family on a budget, its nice to stretch your money and have a fresh, healthy meal go a little farther.

Tomato Basil Pasta Salad | Jersey Up!

Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
1 lb penne pasta (or whatever kind you like)
4 cups diced roma tomatoes (~12)
2 tsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 pkg fresh basil (about 1/3 cup chopped)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
12 ounces feta cheese (regular, reduced fat or tomato basil flavor all work great)

Directions:
1. Mix everything except pasta and feta cheese.  Let it sit on the counter for about an hour.
2. Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Add pasta and feta cheese.

Special Note…
So, apparently, not everything can be frozen.  (What?!  I know!)  I froze a package of basil a long time ago.  Lo and behold, it was slimy and brown after it thawed.  I’ve seen on Pinterest somewhere that you can freeze herbs in olive oil.  Have any of you tried this?  Does it actually work?  What a bummer to waste such nice basil.  Also considering I’m doing a garden this year, I know I’ll have excess and wondering how to properly preserve basil.  I just think fresh adds so much more to a meal than dried.

Homemade Bread

When my husband and I got married he had this expectation of homemade bread.  Like his Grandma makes.  My first reaction was: you crazy.  My second reaction was to put a bread machine on our registry.  His reaction: no, you crazy!  Bread doesn’t come from a machine!  It comes from the oven.  And that is where our bread debated ended.  There was no way in hell I was making real bread from the oven.

Fast forward two years.  I’m at home now with the baby and experimenting with new recipes every day.  I have <gasp> realized that cooking and baking are surprisingly easy if you follow the directions (key step, here).  I have made a lot of things I never thought I would with ease, and they actually taste good.

I decided to give bread a go.  I’ve been seeing this 5-minute no knead artisan bread on Pinterest.  Since I don’t know what kneading is, I thought, “This is perfect!”

The only thing I needed to buy was active dry yeast.  The other two (TWO!) ingredients were flour and salt.  (Oh, and water. Does that even count?)  How shocked was I when I caught myself thinking, “Maybe this will be easy?!”

The recipe said the dough needed to rise for 12-18 hours.  To me, this meant waiting until evening time-ish to make the dough for bread for dinner the next night.  I am so tired in the evening from caring for the baby and the house all day (and Insanity…have I mentioned I’m doing that??), that for two nights in a row I procrastinated the dough.  (So much for “5 minute” bread, right?).

Finally, I ran out of days in the week to rearrange my schedule…  It really did take a few minutes to mix the dough, salt, yeast and water.  Here is my dough ready to rise!

5 Minute Bread Dough | Jersey Up!

Aaaaaand 24 hours later….I was ready to complete the next steps.  Flour and shape.  Rise for a few more hours, then bake.  Not sure why it took longer to rise than the recipe indicated.  Needless to say, we ate dinner late that night.

BUT….how worth it was it?!  So.  So.  Worth it!  The bread smelled amazing and tasted delicious.  I never had warm bread out of the oven, and dare I say I’d do it again?

Homemade Artisan Bread | Jersey Up!

I was really happy with how it looked too – like store-bought!  (hah – who knew that was an aspiration?)  I think it would have come out more like the picture if I had a bigger dutch oven.

Went perfect with the winter squash soup I made!  I might even try to add herbs next time and get real fancy!

No-Knead Artisan Bread
Adapted from Frugal Living NW

Ingredients
6 cups bread or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (I used all purpose)
1/2 teaspoon instant or active-dry yeast (I used active dry)
2.5 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups cool water (I ended up needing less)

Directions
1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add in water slowly and mix together.  Dough should be wet and sticky.
2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit out on counter overnight (12-18 hours) to allow the dough to rise.
3. When the surface is dotted with bubbles, is a darker color and smells yeasty, you are ready to form the dough!  With well floured hands and work surface, shape the dough into a ball.  You want to tuck ends underneath the dough until its rounded on top and there is a seam on the bottom.
4. Wrap dough in parchment paper and let it rise on the counter for 2 more hours until it has doubled in size.
5. You will want to preheat your oven to 425 WITH the cast iron pot and lid inside for about a half hour.  A 5-8qt size will work fine.  If yours has a plastic handle like mine, remove it.  I covered it with foil, but it still popped off.  (Seriously!)
6. Carefully remove pot from oven and plop (yes, that’s technical) your dough inside, seam side up.  It will look ugly, but don’t worry!
7. Bake for 40 minutes covered.  Remove cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes to get the crust nice and crispy.
8. Remove from the pot and let bread cool on a rack COMPLETELY before cutting.  Your house will smell amazing right about now, but don’t let yourself cut the bread too soon or it will be gummy.

*The bread freezes well too!  You can also let the dough rise in the refrigerator for 2-3 days if you are not planning on baking right away.  I have also split this recipe in half and made smaller loaves.  Worked wonderfully.  

There are so many variations and flavor options for this bread!  A quick pinterest search will give you ideas and I plan on doing some that I’ll be sharing soon!  Enjoy – I guarantee you will become addicted like me!

Winter Squash Soup with Homemade Artisan Bread | Jersey Up!

Winter Squash Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
1/2 stick butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
5.5 cups chicken broth
4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 1.5 pounds)
4 cups peeled and cubed acorn squash (about 1.5 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons sage
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions:
1. Heat butter in a nonstick skillet and saute onion and garlic until soft – about 10 minutes.
2. Add broth, squash and spices and stir.  Cook until boiling.
3. Reduce heat and cover.  Simmer until squash is soft – about 30 minutes.
4. Puree soup in blender (you probably will need to work in batches) until it’s at the desired consistency.  Return to the same pot and stir in cream.
5. Serve immediately or chill and serve the next day.  This soup also freezes well.

I was really surprised at how hearty but delicious this soup was!  It’s perfect for late fall and winter.  Just delicious.  Don’t you love what she comes up with over in Smitten Kitchen?  I always do – and I always love her anecdotes that accompany her recipes.

Tip: A lot of grocery stores sell peeled and diced squash for your convenience.  I’m not usually into paying for convenience, BUT my God is squash hard to work with.  I won’t tell you the amount of blood that was lost, but I can tell you that I will certainly be buying pre-peeled and diced squash from now on.  (Once I grow it in my garden, I think that will become a husband job.)